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Map the System


Training students to think differently about social and environmental change

Map the System challenges students to research a social, economic, or environmental challenge they care about from a systems thinking perspective. Systems thinking is an approach that is used to understand all of the different factors affecting a particular social or environmental challenge and the work being done to address it. By gaining skills in systems thinking, students learn how to understand highly complex societal problems and develop strategies and partnerships to address them.

Through participation, students may:

  • Support graduate research, undergraduate capstone projects, and undergraduate Immersion requirements;
  • Identify potential professional opportunities;
  • Learn more about social, economic, or environmental issues they care about;
  • Build research and presentation skills; and,
  • Forge connections with other changemakers both within and beyond the Vanderbilt community.
  • Not to mention, the winning team of the on-campus competition represents Vanderbilt University at the global finals, held in June at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.


Registration for Map the System is currently open. Registration is due by February 5, 2019 at 5:00pm CT. 

Who Should Participate?

Map the System is for ALL Vanderbilt University undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in learning more about a particular societal or environmental challenge and how to develop strategies to address it. The program is designed to help students develop a research-based approach to solving complex social and environmental challenges. The ideal participant is someone who is:

  • From any major, school, or department at Vanderbilt
  • Passionate about social and/or environmental change or has experience with a particular societal challenge
  • Interested in, or curious about, building a career in social impact, social entrepreneurship, advocacy, or policy
  • Seeking an internship or professional opportunity related to a specific social, economic, or environmental challenge; and/or,
  • Contemplating a new social business model but wants to better understand how their proposed solution fits within, or provides an alternative to, existing initiatives.

What Are Team Requirements?

Teams can be comprised of undergraduate and graduate students who are currently enrolled at Vanderbilt University. Teams may have up to 4 members. Individuals are allowed to register as sole competitors, but collaboration with teammates is strongly encouraged.

What Are Participation Requirements?

Teams or individuals who sign up to participate in the Map the System are required to produce three deliverables in order to be considered for the final on-campus competition in April. These include:

  • A visual map of the system surrounding your chosen topic
  • A 2,000 word paper describing research findings
  • A bibliography of sources used during research

During February and March, teams are invited and strongly encouraged to attend 2-3 workshops. These workshops are designed to help teams develop the required materials and conduct successful systems research. While these workshops are not mandatory, participation will be taken into consideration when evaluating team materials.

Key Dates and Timeline

  • Registration Deadline: February 5, 2020 at 5:00pm Central Time
  • Workshops: TBD, mid-February and early March
  • Submissions Due: March 25, 2020 at 5:00pm Central Time
  • On-campus competition & winner announced: April 17, 2020
  • Global Finals in Oxford, United Kingdom: June 5-7, 2020:

Helpful Resources

On-campus Partners